Happy 19th Birthday, VAWA!

BidenSigned into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994—after five years of hearings—the Violence Against Women Act—VAWA—marks the last year of its teens today. Drafted by former Sen. (now Vice President) Joe Biden’s office and approved with bipartisan support, it was designed to give better protection and recourse to women experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault.

Reauthorized by Congress in 2000 and 2005—and along the way adding male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking to those covered by the programs it supports—VAWA faced opposition from recalcitrant conservative Republicans in 2012. Finally reauthorized this year, the latest version expanded federal protections to the LGBT community, Native Americans and immigrants.

At a party last night in his Washington, D.C., home, Vice President Biden complained about the struggle for reauthorization: “Did you ever think we’d be fighting over, you know, 17, 18 years later to reauthorize this?” He then blamed “this sort of Neanderthal crowd” [i.e., ultraconservative Republicans] in the House for its opposition.

Since 1994, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped 64 percent, according to the White House. But there’s still plenty of work ahead to reduce violence and maintain federal and state funding for anti-violence programs. So as we celebrate another year of this important law, let’s light candles but hold the confetti. As Lynn Rosenthal, the White House advisor on violence against women posted today on the White House Blog,

as we reflect on 19 years of progress, we look forward to the day when VAWA is no longer needed. That will be cause for a true celebration.

Photo of longtime VAWA champion Vice President Joe Biden from Flickr user MDGovpics under license from Creative Commons 2.0

HeadCropMichele Kort is senior editor of Ms.


  1. You need to give credit to the feminist activists who thought of the Violence Against Women Act and fought for it. This article acts like VAWA was Joe Biden’s idea. Please!

    It is very depressing to see feminists take other feminists for granted.

  2. Lauren Donna Graham says:

    It is indeed a day to celebrate.

    Now, it would be really good if there were some actual progress in combating violence against women. Restraining and stay away orders need to be strictly enforced. When an order is violated, the person should immediately be taken off the streets and sentenced to significant jail/prison time. As it currently stands, restraining orders are all but useless. They serve to enrage the perpetrators and create potentially more dangerous situations for the women (and their children) who get these orders.

  3. Kathryn Sullivan says:

    What a great thing that this has passed in its extended version, covering all people. I can’t understand why a congressman would not want to sign this. But, while I understand the meaning behind the sentiment “we look forward to the day when VAWA is no longer needed,” I sincerely hope that we never take it off the books because, as the Supreme Court’s decision to remove the Voter’s Rights Act, and the immediate response by conservative state governors has shown us, we are only safe as long as it is a law.

Speak Your Mind


Error, no Ad ID set! Check your syntax!